Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore  A Novel by Robin Sloan

I wasn't going to write this book up on my blog....hmmmm...I am 66 and this book is definitely not written for someone over 40.  But then there were thoughts that I wanted to put down...ideas that I did not want to loose.  So here it is.  I'll start with  review by M. Hollingsworth (wonder if this person descends from our Hollingsworth Quakers from Newberry and Ohio?)

There's so much in this slim volume that I'm not sure where to start. Here's the TLDR version: it's an utter delight, and you should buy it immediately.

Our hero is a graphic designer with some meager programming skills who is left jobless by the recession. He finds new work as a bookstore clerk, and soon discovers that the store is much more than it seems. His quest to uncover its secrets leads only to mysteries, eventually sending him not only across the country but (figuratively) back in time to when the technology to make books widely accessible first became available.

Now my comments:  I am listening to the book via download. many thoughts....take my time and put a few of them down.  Already that fact is one of the thoughts.  I remember when I was in high school going to Davis and Elkins College (I belonged to Enslow Park Presbyterian Church and that was what one did in those days while in high school) for a visit to access my skills and interests while looking for what I might want to do with the rest of my life.  I was told that my interest level was that of a ditch digger or a kindergarten teacher.  I think that the idea was that I was TOOOOO interested in EVERYTHING!  I was not focused enough.  And that indeed has been my problem all of my life.  I surround myself with things that are of great interest to me, but my time is (thank goodness) limited by all of my real life (family, friends, golf, tennis, etc) that I find myself in my free time CONSTANTLY thinking:  is this what I want to do with this ten minutes?  So the audio book connection has let me "read" fiction and etc that I might not take the time to read via paper or digital form.  I am just driving to Starbucks, so I can read such and such.....I can't watch TV because it feels like wasted time to me.  i don't read the paper because I would rather read my computer.  I don't turn on a movie because I have piles of books and magazines that I want to look at.  

In this book the characters do jobs that take incredible amounts of their spare time they do things like make a model of a book that takes hours and hours and hours and hours....and I realize that my genealogy "game" is much like that.  Someone else might not be willing to spend those kinds of hours.  But it is interesting that we all choose what we do with our spare time.  The hero's roommate spends incredible hours making amazing models (much like model train models without the train) out of scraps of whatever.

The ideas that had me running to my computer this morning are this:

First of all, on the hero's visit with Cat to Google headquarters, is his description of the workplace pure fiction or does he actually have inside information on the workspace?  The running of the company being done by a committee that is chosen randomly for 12 months and the comparison of Google and America....and the idea that our country could be run by a committee chosen randomly.   It is absolutely fascinating.  The hero says:  "it is so egalitarian that it is beyond democracy"

Second, the idea of OK (old knowledge) and TK (traditional knowledge).  In chapter 11....someone at lunch is explaining the ideas of trying to get all of the OK and TK into google....hmmmmm.....

As I finish the book this morning just before Thanksgiving 2013, I have found the book to be very entertaining....perhaps a bit silly and tongue in cheek.....but a very fun read.  There were lots of ideas that fit into what is going on in my own life right now as I make decisions on where my own life leads.  The ideas in the book about actual books and digital forms ....the ideas in the book about what makes immortality....the ideas in the book about what one does with one's time have made me do some thinking.  Give Clay's story (written by Robin Sloan) a try.

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